Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Forced Perspective

I spent yesterday editing photos to illustrate a book project I've been involved with for some time that will soon be headed to press. The process was hardly painless or profitable. For reasons that are unclear to me, the last few book projects I've worked on bogged down at this phase.

The underlying reasons are always different:

* In one instance, the photographs were technically perfect, but the job of photo editor landed in my lap. There were so many photos that choosing the right ones was a woefully tedious process that easily took as long as writing the manuscript.

* In one case, the photographer (a very gifted artist) simply dropped off the face of the planet, refusing to return phone calls or e-mails, and forcing the publisher to communicate via certified mail.

* In one, the photographer provided adequate illustrations for one-third of the book and never pursued plans to finish the project.

* And in one case, the photographer just wasn't up to snuff.

Perhaps in a former life, I unknowingly, irreparably insulted a photographer, and I'm still paying for it.

Right now, I have six CD's full of images to illustrate a project that's already written. One of the CD's contains files that are named to coincide with the project. The other CD's contain files of random (to me) numbers. In some cases, the files on more than one disc share the exact same name. After 5 hours of searching, I'd come up with 10 useable, placeable images. Imagine my joy.

One of the things photographers (and graphic artists) have to learn about is the concept of "forced perspective." In essence, this means depicting an object from such an angle as to make portions of it seem larger, longer, smaller, or shorter than normal. Forced perspective intentionally distorts the viewer's vision.

For instance, imagine a photograph of an elephant that is reaching toward the camera lens with its trunk. Not only will the trunk seem shortened, but the end of the trunk closest to the camera will appear to be larger than the elephant's head, if viewed a certain way.

While fuming about the slow progress I was making, I received a call from one of my best friends. A lump in her breast is growing fast enough to cause the doctors concern, so she's having it biopsied later this month. She's scheduled for unrelated surgery later next month. And her husband has significant health issues of his own.

She didn't call to dump on me, or to whine. She just called to catch up and make plans to get together. But suddenly, the vagaries of choosing illustrations paled in comparison to real problems, real issues, and real concerns. Forced perspective all over the place. I hate it when that happens...